RARA-AVIS: "The Cayote"

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 28 Jun 2008

So I was browsing through Mark Twain's first book, lurking and enjoying it...

"When there has been a long season of quiet, people are slow to wet their hands in blood; but once blood is spilled, cutting and shooting come easy."
~ Mark Twain, Roughing It.

I like remembering the Father of American literature carried a gun while he lived and wrote in San Francisco. A red-headed thirty year old loose on the American frontier, Sam Clemens made his bones in San Francisco. By the time he deaded east again, he was famous as a California writer.

Then I came across his story "The Cayote."

"The cayote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolf-skin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The cayote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry."

My favorite Mark Twain story.

We know Hammett read Life on the Mississippi. That's where he got Brigid's name. The widow with the coffin filled with jewels.

But then I saw Sam Spade as the Cayote.

Spade is always hungry? Hmmm.

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